Updated: Sep 2, 2022
Thirty-six years later, Tom Cruise’s iconic fighter ace is cleared for take-off in Top Gun: Maverick.
From the big reveals of the Top Gun 2 trailer to the secrets of the most gruelling shoot in action cinema, this is how the Top Gun sequel got its wings.
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writer: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, Christopher McQuarrie
Story by: Peter Craig, Justin Marks
Stars: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glenn Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer
Genre: Action, Drama
Themes: Fighter Jet, Sequel, U.S. Navy
After more than thirty years of service as one of the Navy's top aviators, Pete Mitchell is where he belongs, pushing the envelope as a courageous test pilot and dodging the advancement in rank that would ground him.
The sequel to Top Gun (1986), the film was praised by critics, who deemed it superior to its predecessor.
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Daniel (Age 12) - ★★★★★
"Top Gun Maverick was an absolutely amazing film. The acting was top tear and the writing was great. I would argue that it was just as good as the original."
Have you seen it yet?
What’s the backstory behind Top Gun 2?
It’s the long, hot summer of 1986, and Top Gun is the only movie that matters. As our younger selves stream out of director Tony Scott’s action smash – after two hours of synth-soundtracked dogfights, shirtless bromance and motorbike seduction – we suddenly know exactly what we want to do with our lives.
We’re going to join the US Navy Strike training programme – aka TOPGUN – and become the next Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell.
If you’re wondering why, in the wake of Top Gun, sales of Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses shot up by 40%, while applications to the US Air Force spiked by 500%, we have one word for you: Maverick. In a decade packed with ice-cool action heroes, nobody was as sub-zero as Tom Cruise’s (Edge of Tomorrow, Minority Report) fighter ace. Reckless and cocksure, with perfect cheekbones and mad skills, the character propelled the Cruiser into the Hollywood stratosphere he occupies to this day.
Nobody needs reminding of Cruise’s solid-gold filmography since ’86 – but we always wondered what Maverick has been up to all these years. Promoted with flying colours? Shot down in flames? Living alone on a craggy island drinking alien milk, à la Luke Skywalker? At last, with Top Gun Maverick we’re about to find out.
What's the Top Gun: Maverick plot?
When we left Maverick at the end of Top Gun – still toasting his audacious takedown of a swarm of enemy MiGs – we could already tell this free spirit wasn’t admiral material. To clip Maverick’s wings with a desk job and water cooler would be cruelty to cultural icons. So it’s a joy to watch the Top Gun 2 trailer and find our childhood hero is still up where the air is clear, having snubbed promotion to work as a test pilot and instructor at the Top Gun academy.
But however fast he guns his P-51 Mustang, Maverick can’t outpace the ghosts of his past.
And when a young cohort of best-of-the-besters arrives to train for a dangerous mission, the veteran airman comes face-to-face with Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Miles Teller - The Divergent Trilogy), the son of his fallen wingman, Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw, who was tragically killed in the first movie.
It all suggests a new Top Gun movie that will pin us to our cinema seats, while unpacking the headspace of an action hero in his autumn years. “Obviously, Maverick in that [first] Top Gun was in his early twenties and now he’s in his fifties,” director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, TRON: Legacy) told Den Of Geek. “We think of Top Gun as an action film, but I think of it as a drama.”
Who’s in the Top Gun: Maverick cast?
Back in ’86, we all loved to hate Val Kilmer (Deja Vu)'s ‘Iceman’: the arrogant airman who clashed with impulsive Maverick.
Thirty-six years later, in Top Gun: Maverick, Iceman has risen up the ranks to become a four-star admiral, and we can’t wait to see how the pair’s rivalry is shaping up.
“Tom was adamant,” producer Jerry Bruckheimer told People, “that if he’s going to make another Top Gun, Val had to be in it.”
Kelly McGillis won’t return but expect A Beautiful Mind’s and Spider-Man: Homecoming's Jennifer Connelly to transcend the traditional ‘love interest’ clichés as Penny Benjamin: single mother and local bar owner.
As the actress told Graham Norton, the role took some reassurance from Cruise.
“I was afraid to tell Tom that I had a crippling fear of flying. But he told me, ‘It’s gonna be very graceful, very elegant, nice and easy…’”.
Meanwhile, don’t forget the new recruits, who include Hangman (Glen Powell - The Dark Knight Rises, Hidden Figures), Phoenix (Monica Barbaro) and most importantly, Rooster, played with sensitivity by Rabbit Hole star Miles Teller.
As the actor, who comes from a military family, told Men’s Health: “You want to give a voice to these guys.”
How did the Top Gun: Maverick cast prepare for the shoot?
According to an Empire interview with Bruckheimer, the actors from the original Top Gun went up in the planes for real, “but we couldn’t use one frame of the footage, except some stuff on Tom, because they all threw up!”
For Top Gun: Maverick, the cast got their wings once again – while Cruise himself put them through an intensive training regime to prepare for the physical demands. “It is aggressive,” he told ET Canada. “You can’t act that. They’re pulling 1,600 pounds of force. It distorts your face. I’m so proud of what they’ve done, because it is heavy duty.”
Capturing the movie’s audacious stunts was just as demanding, with the bar set so high that Kosinski says it sometimes took 16 hours to nail a 40-second segment.
“You just can’t create this kind of experience unless you shoot it live,” Cruise told ET Canada. “So in order to accomplish this, we have the greatest fighter pilots in the world working with us.”
What are the big talking points from the Top Gun 2 trailer?
Firstly, that this Top Gun sequel has flight sequences so realistic you can feel the G-force crushing your ribcage. As a young man, Kosinski was set for a career as an aerospace engineer before the movies came calling, and it was his vision that Top Gun 2 was truly immersive, putting audiences in the cockpit with the most ambitious camera work yet seen.
“On Top Gun: Maverick,” he told Collider, “we worked with Sony to develop an IMAX quality camera. We were able to mount six of them inside the cockpit, and four on the outside of the airplane. So we’re using technology to capture something real, rather than having to create it on a soundstage. We made an old school movie using the latest technology.”
After 36 years dreaming of a Top Gun sequel, it’s only natural that your inner schoolkid is feeling the need for speed.
“You can feel the authenticity,” the director told Den Of Geek.
“You can feel the strain, the G-forces, the speed, something you could never capture on a soundstage, no matter how much money or visual effects you threw at it. It was a tremendous amount of effort and work, but you just can’t fake the results. I can’t wait for people to see it.”
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